Surveillance and evaluation of the infection risk of free-living amoebae and Legionella in different aquatic environments

Sci Total Environ. 2014 Nov 15;499:212-9. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.07.116. Epub 2014 Sep 3.


Free-living amoebae (FLA) are ubiquitous in various aquatic environments. Several amoebae species are pathogenic and host other pathogens such as Legionella, but the presence of FLA and its parasites as well as the related infection risk are not well known. In this study, the presence of pathogenic FLA and Legionella in various water bodies was investigated. Water samples were collected from a river, intake areas of drinking water treatment plants, and recreational hot spring complexes in central and southern Taiwan. A total of 140 water samples were tested for the presence of Acanthamoeba spp., Naegleria spp., Vermamoeba vermiformis, and Legionella. In addition, phylogenetic characteristics and water quality parameters were also assessed. The pathogenic genotypes of FLA included Acanthamoeba T4 and Naegleria australiensis, and both were abundant in the hot spring water. In contrast, Legionella pneumophila was detected in different aquatic environments. Among the FLA assessed, V. vermiformis was most likely to coexist with Legionella spp. The total bacteria level was associated with the presence of FLA and Legionella especially in hot spring water. Taken together, FLA contamination in recreational hot springs and drinking water source warrants more attention on potential legionellosis and amoebae infections.

Keywords: Amoeba; Aquatic environments; Hot spring; Legionella; Pathogenic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amoeba / classification
  • Amoeba / growth & development*
  • Drinking Water / microbiology*
  • Drinking Water / parasitology*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Hot Springs / microbiology
  • Hot Springs / parasitology
  • Legionella / classification
  • Legionella / growth & development*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Taiwan
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Purification


  • Drinking Water